Friday, 25 May 2012

Children in care and poverty

Today Cafcass (the family court social work service) published updated research about the characteristics of children in care. It is a follow up to a similar study in 2009 and is based on a survey of Cafcass social workers involved in 343 (61.0%) of the 562 care applications received from 83 Local Authorities during the period 11th -30th November 2011. However the part of the report which hit the news is an appendix to it that lists the proportion of children in care for each local authority in England.

The average number of children in care per 10,000 is 9.2. Rutland is the lowest at 2, South Tyneside is the highest at 30.1. Interestingly the four highest scoring councils in England are all in the north east, I thought it would be interesting to note the percentage of children living in poverty for each council too.

Number per 10,000:Child Poverty:
1. South Tyneside 30.128%
2. Middlesbrough 25.434%
3. Redcar & Cleveland 24.226%
4. Stockton on Tees 21.522%

The regional child poverty average is 24%. Nationally the total number of applications to the courts for Care Orders stands at a record high of 10,218 in the last year (compared to 6,323 in the year 2007-2008).

This table shows the ages of the children for whom there were requests for Care Orders.

Under 11 to 45 to 910 to 15Over 16

The Cafcass report makes much of the reduction in the percentage of 1 to 4 year olds coming before the courts, citing it as evidence that councils are intervening earlier in children's lives. However the report is silent on the large rise in young people aged 10 to 15 years. Anecdotally council colleagues have told me there is a big increase in parents unable to cope with the stresses of the economic situation and family life with the consequence that they evict their teenage children.

One cannot say there is a casual link between child poverty and numbers of children in care, there are many other factors - local parent support services, the effectiveness of social workers, the local 'threshold' at which professionals decide parenting is unacceptable; however it would be unwise to ignore external stress on family life like insufficient income and lack of opportunity as a contributing factor too.

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